The academic major of chemistry is among the most fundamental sciences into which students gain insight. Chemical processes represent the foundation, upon which life as we understand it today is built. It must be the primary goal of a chemistry instructor to spark the student's interest in this. It is of utmost importance to lead the student to the level of abstract thinking necessary to master the difficult network of facts in chemistry. To be able to think in terms of concepts rather than in terms of mere facts will help the student to succeed academically and enjoy chemistry.
To achieve this goal it is necessary that both, the student and the professor be fully committed to the topic of chemistry and to each other. The weekly/monthly process of lecture, discussion, homework, and exam has to be taken very seriously. It has to be taken seriously by the student a) in terms of an inevitably bigger time-commitment to studying as compared to other academic majors; b) in terms of thorough preparation of upcoming lectures (it would not be beneficial to attend lectures unprepared), and c) in terms of self-initiative such as advanced reading and interest in current research topics. It has to be taken seriously by the instructor a) in terms of thorough lecture preparation with audio-visual means if reasonable (possibly including small class room demonstrations); b) in terms of mentoring, and c) in terms of a research program in the field of specialization to remain updated on cutting edge developments and new discoveries.
Chemistry does not stand by itself in the academic landscape as it used to some hundred years ago. The student should understand the multidisciplinary aspect of chemistry in a broader sense: we teach for life, not for school.
The initial and most difficult step in effective teaching is to lead the student away from plain memorizing facts towards categorizing and conceptualizing. There is a fundamental difference between "studying" and "understanding". Understanding a topic manifests itself in the student's capability to explain a topic or a problem for example to non-chemistry majors who did not attend lectures or discussions. The student becomes the teacher. The capability to read, to conceptualize, and to communicate a problem to another person so that potential solutions to the problem become clear is a part of "conceptual understanding".
The second most difficult issue to address is the difference in learning style encountered among students. Lecturing should include writing problems out stepwise, discussing them in words, handouts with helpful additional material, audio-visual media when reasonable (it is still the student who thinks and the professor who teaches, not the television set), class room demonstrations during the lecture, problem sets, discussion sessions open to everybody, and chemical laboratories as required part of the curriculum. If possible, students should be involved in advertised research projects to widen their insight into chemistry beyond the lecture hall.
My group investigates the structure of carbohydrates and biochemically important oligosaccharides. We use synthetic tools and instrumental analytical methods, especially magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) and mass spectrometry (MS).